By Mary O’KEEFE
Almost 14 years after a Glendale woman went missing her family can finally have closure as her body is identified.
In 1996, Esperanza Torio, a 39-year-old single mother of two, was preparing for a new full-time job and a move into a Glendale apartment. She suddenly disappeared before she was able to make the move.
It was 14 years ago this August that Esperanza’s sister reported her missing to the Glendale police. An investigation into her disappearance was conducted and all leads were exhausted, according to Glendale police.
Due to the advancement of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) technology, the Glendale police asked the family for a sample of Esperanza’s DNA.
DNA is the fundamental building block for an individual’s entire genetic makeup. It is a component of virtually every cell in the human body. Further, a person’s DNA is the same in every cell; same DNA in skin cells, blood and saliva, according to DNA Initiative at www.dna.gov.
“The [investigation] was a cold case. We wanted to get a DNA [profile known as] Familia DNA,” said Sgt. Tom Lorenz. “The [family] was relieved we hadn’t forgotten [Esperanza].”
The DNA profile was placed into the California Department of Justice Missing and Unidentified Person database by GPD in 2009. Shortly after the information was entered the Glendale police were contacted with a match.
Mexican authorities had discovered a body in Playas De Rosarito, Mexico just days after Esperanza’s disappearance. They had no way of identifying the body but had recorded the DNA. When Esperanza’s profile was placed into the system the information matched.
“The family has been supportive and I think relieved that we did not give up after 14 years,” Lorenz said.
The cold case of Esperanza’s disappearance was re-opened and is now being treated as a homicide investigation by police. The case focused on Aurangzeb “Simon” Manjra, 52, of Los Angeles. Manjra allegedly had been dating the victim near the time of her disappearance. Glendale police discovered that Manjra had dated another women in 2004 who had also disappeared. Maria Santos had been reported missing to the Los Angeles Police Department. That investigation had not produced any information on her whereabouts. After an investigation by GPD and LAPD, Manjra was arrested in May 2010 for the murders of both women. L.A. County District Attorney’s office has filed two counts of murder on Manjra.
Since the arrest, various law enforcement agencies including Glendale have continued their investigation into Manjra’s life over the last 30 years.
“We have pretty good evidence as to how [Esperanza] died,” Lorenz said.
However because the investigation is ongoing that information is not being released.
Glendale police are asking for the public’s help with any information about the relationships that Manjra may have had with the two victims or other women. Those with any information can contact Det. Peter Petros Kmbikyan at the Glendale Police Homicide Unit, (818) 548-3987. Anonymous tips may be provided by calling Glendale Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.
Manjra is being held without bail. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 27 in L.A. Municipal Court.